In 1728, Sir Nicholas Lawes, the then Governor of Jamaica, imported coffee into Jamaica from Martinique. The country was ideal for this cultivation and nine years after its introduction 83,000 lbs. of coffee was exported. Between 1728 and 1768, the coffee industry developed largely in the foothills of St. Andrew, but gradually the cultivation extended into the Blue Mountains. Since then, the industry has experienced many rises and falls, some farmers abandoning coffee for livestock and other crops. In order to save the industry, in 1891 legislation was passed “to provide instructions in the art of cultivation and curing coffee by sending to certain districts, competent instructors.” Efforts were made to increase the production of coffee and to establish a Central Coffee Work for processing and grading. This effort to improve quality, however, was not very successful: until 1943 it was unacceptable to the Canadian market, which at the time was the largest buyer of Jamaican coffee. In 1944 the Government established a Central Coffee Clearing House where all coffee for export had to be delivered to the Clearing House where it was cleaned and graded. Improvement in the quality of Jamaica’s coffee export was underway. In June 1950 the Coffee Industry Board was established to officially raise and maintain the quality of coffee exported.
Jamaica is famous for producing some of the finest coffee found anywhere in the world. What makes this little island such a prime spot for growing a world-class coffee? As in real estate, it’s “Location, Location, Location” and in this case, that location is the Blue Mountains. Coffee plants need to be well watered, well drained and experience periodic coolness during some stages of development. The Nitrogen rich soil covered by the natural shade trees and rain forest growth, provides such an environment. To be called “Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee”, it must be grown at altitudes between 2,000 and 5,000 feet in the Parishes of Portland, St. Andrew and St. Thomas and, most importantly, be grown on the estates of; Mavis Bank, Silver Hill, Moy Hall or Wallenford. Coffee grown elsewhere in the Blue Mountains or anywhere else in Jamaica cannot be called “Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee”. These other coffees grown in other locations in Jamaica are known as “High Mountain” or “Jamaica Prime”, and do not get exported off the island. Demand is high and supply is low. It is estimated that a mere 9000 acres which lie above the minimum requirement of 2000 ft above sea level within the Blue Mountains, are considered within the legal bounds for the growing of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. Among these lands some 5000 coffee farmers grow and hand-pick coffee on dangerous mountainous terrain to get the cherries boxed for the processors who will float and measure the cherries quality before accepting them from the Farmers. The good cherries will sink, and the unfit will float if there are unripened cherries or other damage from insects or weather conditions.
The cherries will once again be floated upon arrival at the processor where they will then be soaked to remove the outer skin leaving the “Wet Parchment” behind. From there it is on to the drying beds for up to 5-6 days depending on the sunlight until the beans reach 12% moisture content. The beans will be stored for some time until the husks are removed and the beans are polished.This removes a lot the final outer skin (known as Chaff to you roasters- though there is some during roasting but not as much as other coffees), and gives the beans a nice shine before sorting. The beans are sorted by #1,#2,#3, and of course Peaberry. 1 & 2 and the graded Peaberry are considered exportable Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee and will be passed along to the Coffee Industry Board for further inspection; #3 will not be exported, but rather consumed on the Island.
Prior to export, the coffee then undergoes The Coffee Industry Board’s quality control measures including appearance checks and cup testing to ensure the cup- quality of the beans. Only after undergoing this rigorous quality control process is the coffee then issued a certificate of authenticity by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica. All this so you may enjoy the Labor of Our Love!
DID YOU KNOW???
Jamaica Blue Mountain green coffee is the only coffee in the world that is shipped in hand-made Aspen Wood barrels. Watch A Quick Video. Similar to fine wines, barrels preserve and maintain the characteristics of the green coffee and keep all the unwanted elements out during shipment and storage.